Tuesday, 24 April 2012

The Orphan Homes, Cheetham Hill

"£10 a year or 17 shillings per month will support or educate an orphan or homeless boy." Manchester Times, 1876

Adverts were often placed in the local papers asking for money to set up a new service to help Manchester’s waifs and strays. It was an imperative means of communication. Up until the introduction of the new welfare state in the 1940s the Manchester and Salford Boys’ and Girls’ Refuges and Homes had to rely purely on charitable donations from the public. In its early days the charity was opening a new service or home almost every year. This could only be done thanks to the many wonderful contributions from a city who wanted to help its younger inhabitants.

Advert appealing for funds, c.1906 (PH/4/16)

One such service that was started after an appeal for donations in the local newspapers, were the Orphan Homes in Cheetham Hill. After five years of caring for boys over the age of ten it was felt provision for younger children had to be made. A generous cheque of £600 was made by Sir William Atkinson of Southport and two houses on Johnson Street, just off Queen Street were purchased. Reporting on its opening in 1877 the Manchester Times described it as an ‘ordinary family dwelling’ containing 16 boys aged 3 to 9. Here the Committee had taken the unusual step at the time to move away from the large institutionalised homes of old into smaller family style units, with the boys being educated at local boarding schools.

Outside the Orphan Homes, 1904 (PH/4/28)

In 1882, the service moved to George Street with four homes for boys and two homes for girls purchased in a ‘healthy and pleasant district’. With a playground at the rear and small gardens at the front, planted with shrubs, the homes ‘were made to look as like home as any artificial representation of a home could be made.’ (Mayor of Manchester, Manchester Courier, 1882). Each lady in charge was not referred to as Matron but Mother. Once the children reached ten they were transferred to one of the homes for older children where they learned a trade or went out to work.

In the same year a very distinguished guest, the social reformer Lord Shaftesbury, paid a visit to the George Street Homes commenting; I think they are more than ordinary, I think they are very extraordinary, because I have never seen the family life carried out so truly”. taken from 'Making Rough Place Plain' by William Edmondson, 1920.

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